The Work of Others

Bunn will extract

Extract from will of Jacob Bunn, Northampton County, NC, 1790

Most American genealogies justifiably celebrate the accomplishments and deeds of ancestors, recalling how they experienced or participated in the historical events of their times. However, genealogies of white southerners often omit reference to a group of household members that contributed significantly to their family enterprises: that is, those household members held in slavery prior to the Civil War. Yet much as slavery was impossible to ignore in antebellum southern society, it is impossible to ignore within the primary documents of the era. Particularly disturbing is reading wills, where “Negroes” are parceled out to heirs along with livestock and household furnishings. One common formulation reads like that in the 1790 will of Nelson ancestor Jacob Bunn, of Northampton County, NC: “I give unto my grandson Elias Lewter one Negro woman by the name of Edy and all her issue to him and his heirs forever.” Thus does one man expect to condemn a woman and all her descendants to slavery in perpetuity.

No one in the family handed down stories of slavery, but a few, usually tragic glimpses remain in the historical record. Continue reading

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From Whence They Came

Ship Image Nova BritanniaRecent posts have highlighted this family’s ancestors who were Scotch-Irish, French Huguenot, German, and Irish. And of course, there are the earliest posts that described the origin of the family’s surname amidst the European Jews of France and Hungary. While the family’s European antecedents include a diversity of influences, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that overall our origins were mostly British and more particularly English.

Using the the framework of the eight families representing the author’s great-grandparents, here are the estimated origins for each.

Origin Chart 3-22-17

Estimated percentage of family origin by distinct ethnic/linguistic group. “British” refers to an origin on the island of Great Britain, including England, Scotland, and Wales.

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The Fair

How does a store clerk in Nashville meet a girl in Indianapolis?

The store clerk was Abraham Loeb, the son of Emmanuel and Marie Loeb, who had moved away from his family in Louisville, Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee by 1889.

Fohl Sisters

Lizzie Fohl (center) with sisters Edna (left) and Lora (right)

Abraham’s future bride was Lizzie Fohl. It was an unlikely match, both because of the geographic distance that separated them and because Abraham was Jewish while Lizzie was a Protestant Christian whose grandfather John Fohl was a major figure in the United Brethren Church. Continue reading

A Star in the Morning

Mary Morningstar Loeb - cropped


Abraham Loeb’s mother Marie (or Mary) Loeb

A revolt in the Austrian Empire may have sent Emmanuel Loeb’s future wife to the United States.

The year 1848 was a turbulent time in Europe, as popular protests sought to upend the existing political order in France, Italy, and Germany among other places. Among the continent-wide rebellions, the people of Hungary attempted to win independence from the Austrian Empire, but the fight was unsuccessful. Those activists and leaders who were able fled to avoid retribution from Austrian Emperor.

In 1849, the family of Ignatz Morgenstern from Hungary appeared in the United States. Ignatz was a German-speaking Jewish surgeon who – by some family accounts – was a personal physician to Austrian nobility. His arrival in the U.S. in 1849 seems to place him squarely within the historical context of the failed Hungarian revolt, which many Hungarian Jews supported. Continue reading

Loebs and Lions

LionThe family name “Loeb” is oddly entangled with lions and Napoleon.

While most surnames have a generic, readily-searchable origin story, the story of the name Loeb in this family is very specific. The first Loeb in the family arrived in the United States on December 23, 1848: Jewish immigrant Emmanuel Loeb from Alsace, France.  Emmanuel was a young man, born in 1827 in the tiny town of Ingwiller where his family had been for at least three generations. But the name of his paternal grandfather was not Loeb. Continue reading